- Two weeks after the Taliban took control, Ahmad Massoud leads fighters in the Panjshir Valley.
- Each side says huge casualties.
- Afghanistan suffers from drought and a 20-year war.
- The Taliban claim the Panjshir valley is surrounded.
Fighting broke out in the Panjshir Valley on Thursday, two weeks after the Taliban took control, as Taliban commanders in Kabul tried to establish a government.
It is the last province in Afghanistan to be under Taliban government after the US and other foreign forces departed Afghanistan 20 years ago.
Each side claimed significant casualties.
According to Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, negotiations with the local armed organisation failed.
He claimed Taliban fighters had reached Panjshir and seized some area. “They (the adversary) lost heavily.”
The National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA) insurgent spokesman claimed it had repelled attempts to seize Shotul district.
“The enemy tried many times to infiltrate Shotul from Jabul-Saraj, but failed every time,” he added.
Formed by the Taliban on August 15, Panjshir has been home to thousands of local militia and government fighters led by Massoud, the Mujahideen commander’s son.
They’ve been hiding in a deep valley, safe from outside assaults.
Negotiations seem to have fallen down, with each side blaming the other, as the Taliban prepared to proclaim a new government.
Official Taliban spokesman Ahmadullah Muttaqi claimed a ceremony was being planned at the presidential palace.
Due to the drought and the 20-year war, the government’s credibility among foreign donors and investors is vital for economic growth.
Humanitarian organizations have warned of imminent disaster, and the economy, dependent on foreign assistance for years, is nearing collapse.
The economy is projected to contract 9.7% this year and 5.25% next year, according to Fitch.
A more hopeful scenario would need foreign investment, assuming “certain big economies, notably China and perhaps Russia, recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government.”
To show the world that the Taliban is a moderate force, they have promised to safeguard human rights and abstain from retaliating against former adversaries.
According to a person familiar with the matter, Afghan ambassadors have been advised to remain put for now. The Taliban sought to preserve a feeling of continuity while acknowledging change.
Action is required before official recognition of the new government and the associated economic assistance can be granted, say the US, EU, and others.
The EU was “far from even addressing this issue,” Slovenia’s foreign minister told Reuters. Some EU nations label the Taliban “terrorists.”
Anze Logar says that recognizing the Taliban government would give the EU “leverage” in establishing conditions.
The Taliban have guaranteed safe passage out of the country for any foreigners or Afghans left behind by the massive airlift that concluded on Monday. But, with Kabul’s airport remained blocked, many sought land escape.
Qatar’s foreign minister claimed the Gulf state was in talks with the Taliban and Turkey about reopening Kabul airport, which would allow for more humanitarian supplies and perhaps additional evacuations.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Britain will talk to regional authorities on safe transit via third countries.
“We must adapt to the new reality,” he added.
In Panjshir, an NRFA spokesman claimed his troops had killed many Taliban fighters on two fronts since earlier in the week.
“We have shown the other side that war is not the answer,” the spokesman added.
Both sides claimed the other’s casualties without proof. The numbers of fighters killed on each side were unknown.
The Taliban claim that the Panjshir valley is completely surrounded. The rebels vow they won’t give up.